EconPol: Coronavirus Crisis Promotes Altruism and Social Exchange

| Press release

Information on the Covid-19 pandemic triggers altruistic behavior and willingness to discuss with citizens of their own country, other EU countries, and non-EU citizens. Information on the importance of shared European values also increases altruism and reciprocity, but only toward compatriots and fellow Europeans. These are the findings of a large-scale survey experiment conducted by the EconPol Europe research network. “Interestingly, information on common economic interests had no tangible impact on people’s behavior,” says Mathias Dolls, a researcher in the EconPol network and co author of the study. 

The survey was conducted in August 2020 in nine European countries where the impact of the pandemic varied widely: France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Sweden. Participants in the experiment were divided into different groups. Members of the first group were given information about the pandemic, in particular the total number of deaths per million people in their own country as well as across the EU. The second group received information on the importance of the EU single market for their own country. Information for the third group focused on sharing the common values of peace, democracy, protection of human rights, and equality in Europe. EconPol researchers examined the effect of these different types of information on altruism, reciprocity, and trust in others. Trust was not affected by any of the three information types. “Altruism, reciprocity, and social trust are important determinants of prosperity and a well-functioning society. The findings confirm the extent to which crises suffered together strengthen cohesion,” Dolls says.